United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
RAY TURNER a/k/a AUTHOR X a/k/a AUTHUR R. TURNER, Plaintiff,
DERRICK SCHOFIELD, ET AL., Defendants.
ORDER PARTIALLY GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
DISMISS AND MODIFYING SCHEDULING ORDER
D. TODD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pro se prisoner Plaintiff, Ray Turner a/k/a Author X
a/k/a Authur R. Turner, a Tennessee Department of Correction
(TDOC) inmate who is currently incarcerated at the South
Central Correctional Facility (SCCF) in Clifton, Tennessee,
filed this complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq. (ECF No.
1.) The complaint concerns events that occurred during
Plaintiff's previous incarceration at the Northwest
Correctional Complex (NWCX) in Tiptonville, Tennessee.
20, 2016, the Court issued an order dismissing portions of
the complaint and directing that process be issued for the
following Defendants: TDOC Food Service Director Jane
Amonett; NWCX Warden Mike Parris; NWCX Food Service Manager
Veronica Cadney; NWCX Assistant Food Managers Susan Redden
and Rick Duncan; NWCX Chaplain Kurt Gross; and former NWCX
Chaplain Mike Lavender. (ECF No. 11.) The remaining claims
are those alleging that Plaintiff was denied a nutritious
diet that accommodated his religious beliefs and that he was
denied passes for religious services because he wanted to use
his Muslim name on the sign-up sheet rather than the name
under which he was convicted - his “committed”
October 13, 2016, all of the Defendants except Defendant
Lavender filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
(ECF No. 37.) After Defendant Lavender was served with
process, he filed notice that he joined in the motion to
dismiss. (ECF No. 56.) On December 16, 2016, Plaintiff filed
a “motion to dismiss” the Defendants' motion,
which is construed as a response to the Rule 12(b)(6) motion.
(ECF No. 45.)
evaluating a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,
the Court must construe the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff and accept all factual allegations
as true. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46
(1957). While the complaint “does not need detailed
factual allegations” the plaintiff must supply
sufficient allegations “to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level . . . .” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The
complaint must allege “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at
570. In addition, “the tenet that a court must accept
as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is
inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. Although the court “primarily considers
the allegations in the complaint . . . exhibits attached to
the complaint also may be taken into account.”
Amini v. Oberlin Coll., 259 F.3d 493, 502 (6th Cir.
2001) (quoting Nieman v. NLO, Inc., 108 F.3d 1546,
1554 (6th Cir. 1997)).
first contend that Plaintiff's First Amendment claims
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are barred by the applicable
limitations period. The statute of limitations for a §
1983 action is the “state statute of limitations
applicable to personal injury actions under the law of the
state in which the § 1983 claim arises.”
Eidson v. Tenn. Dep't of Children's Servs.,
510 F.3d 631, 634 (6th Cir. 2007); see also Wilson v.
Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275-76 (1985). The limitations
period for § 1983 actions arising in Tennessee is the
one-year limitations provision found in Tennessee Code
Annotated § 28-3-104(a)(1). Roberson v.
Tennessee, 399 F.3d 792, 794 (6th Cir. 2005); Hughes
v. Vanderbilt Univ., 215 F.3d 543, 547 (6th Cir. 2000);
Berndt v. Tennessee, 796 F.2d 879, 883 (6th Cir.
the “mailbox rule” of Houston v. Lack,
487 U.S. 266 (1988), Plaintiff's complaint is deemed
filed, at the earliest, when it was executed on May 29, 2015.
Defendants thus argue that all § 1983 claims arising
before May 29, 2014, are untimely. Plaintiff disputes this
assertion, correctly asserting that the statute of
limitations was tolled while he exhausted any pertinent
grievances. Brown v. Morgan, 209 F.3d 595, 596-97
(6th Cir. 2000).
attached to the complaint show that Plaintiff filed several
grievances at the NWCX that appear to be related to his
religious diet and other religious accommodations.
(See Ex. D, ECF No. 1-11; Ex. E, ECF No. 1-12; Ex.
G, ECF No. 1-14.) The date of the final administrative
decision on most of those grievances was within one year of
the filing of the complaint. However, the precise subject
matter of some of the grievances cannot be determined due to
the very poor reproduction quality of the documents. (Ex. G.
at 4-5, 12-13, 19-20, 38-40, 47-48, 57-59, 66-68, 70, 83-85,
ECF No. 1-14.) Therefore, it is unclear whether any of the
specific claims raised in this case were exhausted more than
one year before the complaint was filed. Accordingly,
Defendants are not entitled to dismissal based on the statute
Amonett and Parris, as TDOC Food Service Director and NWCX
Warden, respectively, argue that dismissal on the § 1983
claims against them is appropriate because Plaintiff has
failed to allege anything other than respondeat
superior. Because the Court's order of partial
dismissal directed the Clerk to issue process for Defendant
Parris (ECF No. 11 at 22-23), it was not entirely clear that
the order dismissed the § 1983 supervisory claims
against Defendants Schofield, Watson and Parris
(id. at 13-15.) The Court here clarifies that the
§ 1983 claims against Parris were previously dismissed.
regard to the § 1983 supervisory claims against
Defendant Amonett, the applicable law was set out in the
prior order. Under § 1983, “[g]overnment officials
may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of
their subordinates under a theory of respondeat
superior.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
676; see also Bellamy v. Bradley, 729 F.2d 416, 421
(6th Cir. 1984). A plaintiff must allege that the supervisor
was personally involved in the alleged constitutional
violation. Grinter v. v. Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 575
(6th Cir. 2008). A failure to take corrective action in
response to an inmate grievance or complaint does not supply
the necessary personal involvement for § 1983 liability.
See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609-10 (7th Cir.
2007) (“Ruling against a prisoner on an administrative
complaint does not cause or contribute to the
[constitutional] violation. A guard who stands and watches
while another guard beats a prisoner violates the
Constitution; a guard who rejects an administrative complaint
about a completed act of misconduct does not.”).
case, the complaint does not allege that Defendant Amonett
was personally involved in denying Plaintiff a religious
diet. At most, Plaintiff alleges that Amonett failed to
respond satisfactorily to his letters of complaint. (ECF No.
1 ¶¶ 308-313, at 36-37.) Therefore, the § 1983
claims against Defendant Amonett are also subject to
dismissal for failure to state a claim on which relief may be
Cadney, Redden and Duncan contend that Plaintiff has failed
to state a First Amendment claim under § 1983 for
deprivation of his right to freely exercise his religion.
Plaintiff, who is a member of the Nation of Islam who states
that he follows the dietary teachings of the “Most
Honorable Elijah Muhammad” (id. ¶ 333, at
39), alleges he was not receiving meals that complied with
his specific religious restrictions and also met his
nutritional and health needs. Plaintiff also alleges that he
is allergic to peas and beans, including soy and its
byproducts; therefore, his vegetarian options are also
limited. (E.g., Id. ¶¶ 20, 44-46, at 4,
assert that Plaintiff received vegetarian meals which are
Halal-compliant under TDOC policies and, therefore, contend
the allegation that his diet violated his religious beliefs
fails to state a claim. The Court disagrees and finds that
the issue of whether Defendants' failure to accommodate
Plaintiff's specific dietary restrictions violated the
First Amendment is not appropriately resolved on a motion to
regard to Plaintiff's allegation that his food allergies
further limit his dietary choices, Defendants contend that
Plaintiff should have brought that claim under the Eighth
Amendment for deliberate indifference to his serious medical
needs. While Defendants may technically be correct, prisoner
complaints must be construed liberally, and Plaintiff does
allege that Defendants had knowledge of his allergies to peas
and beans, including soy, yet expected him to eat food
containing those substances. Therefore, the Court will ...